Florida Resident Claudius Smith Claims Self-Defense After Chasing Down, Killing Man

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Florida’s infamous Stand Your Ground law may be invoked again soon.

The incident involves shooter Claudius Smith, 32, and deceased man Ricardo Sanes, 21.

Smith told Orlando police that he was in his home last Thursday when his girlfriend grabbed his attention. She said she was looking at an outdoor surveillance monitor and saw a man in dark clothing wandering around their yard.

Smith told police the man was seen “climbing over the fence” into their yard. Due to a recent string of burglaries at his property, Smith decided to confront the man.

According to the police report, Smith claims “he was certain the unknown male was responsible [for the burglaries]…he began to chase him.”

Smith said he left his property armed with a .45-caliber handgun and spotted Sanes peering into windows of apartments as he passed by them. Smith confronted Sanes with his gun drawn. When Sanes tried to run, Smith admits he grabbed the man by the sweatshirt and tried to bring him back to his apartment.

Then, according to Smith, Sanes punched him in the mouth and tried to grab his gun. Fearing Sanes was armed, Smith retaliated and fired six rounds into Sanes' body. He died immediatley. Smith claims he shot the man out of self-defense. A gun was later found in Sanes’ pants by police.

A preliminary examination of Sanes’ body revealed bullet holes in his upper back and the back of his neck. Some have called into question whether bullet holes on Sanes’ backside indicate that he was fleeing from Smith – not confronting him – when he was shot.

This combined with the fact that Smith admitted to confronting the man and initiating their physical conflict, could spoil his chances of successfully invoking the Stand Your Ground Law. Here’s what Orlando defense attorney Richard Hornsby had to say about the situation.

“If (Smith) didn’t have probable cause to detain this guy, or make a citizen’s arrest, then everything he did was illegal and he has no ‘stand your ground’ defense,” Hornsby said. But, he admits, defendants “seem to know what to say to at least give them a benefit of a doubt when it comes to invoking the ‘stand your ground’ law.”

Smith has not invoked the law at this time, and neither he nor his legal team has said if they plan to. As it currently stands, Smith has been charged with second-degree murder with a firearm. 

Sources: St. Augustine Record, Think Progress